Incidentally, you might be interested to know that last week's rumors were true; in those email messages to G5 customers, Apple admitted that it had back-burnered regular customer orders (known within Cupertino's halls as "peon orders") so that it could get as many G5s as possible to education purchasers "to meet key back to school deadlines." But that's no big deal, right? After all, it's pretty important for Apple to cling to whatever education orders it can scrape together these days, and really, how many schools could actually be ordering G5s anyway? Four? Five?
We don't know, but we can say this: if those four or five schools are all ordering as many G5s as Virginia Tech, no wonder the peons are going to be waiting for another few weeks. Faithful viewer Daniel Blanken sent us scurrying over to Think Secret to soak up some details about the school's new supercomputer project, which allegedly plans to tie 1100 Power Mac G5s-- dual-processor ones, natch, with either "4 GB or 8 GB" of RAM apiece-- together into one scary, scary cluster capable of squeezing out "over 10 Teraflops of performance" to become "one of the top five fastest [supercomputers] in the world."
Eleven hundred Power Macs. Just think about that for a second. Stack 'em one on top of another and you're talking about a real tower of power-- over a quarter of a mile high. Suppose Virginia Tech thought this one through? By our calculations, even if you ignore space required for airflow, 1100 Power Macs will chew up roughly 2000 cubic feet, which is a sizeable wad of real estate-- it's not something you can just wedge underneath the desk (unless it's one of the top five largest desks in the world). And boy, aren't they going to feel a little sheepish when the G5 Xserve comes out three days after they get all those Power Macs stapled together?
Actually, it'd be silly to think they didn't consider that likelihood, but reportedly time is of the essence; the whole cluster has to be up and running ASAP in order to qualify for Linpack's list of the Top 500 Supercomputers (ahhh, so that's the "key back to school deadline"; and here we thought it was going to be something academic), so evidently Virginia Tech didn't want to wait for the rack-mountable version. Or maybe they know something we don't; we have a feeling that if you go to Apple with $3.3 million and say you want to buy 1100 dual-G5 nodes to build one of the world's five fastest supercomputers, they'd be willing to let you in on the fact that the Xserve won't go G5 until, say, next summer. Just a thought.
There's no word at Think Secret on just what sort of massively computationally complex problem Virginia Tech needs an 1100-node Power Mac supercomputer to calculate in the first place (42!), but AtAT sources at the school who managed to smuggle out copies of the original specification and proposal report that its primary task will be to "impress the living crap out of everyone." Indeed, the project has reportedly already met its first milestone, which is to have made a professor at another school gasp at the project's description, slap his forehead, and exclaim, "why, that must be one of the top five fastest supercomputers I've ever heard described!" So the project's off to a solid start.